Silkroad Ensemble Celebrates Festival of the Arts

By Kelly Gallagher ’22
Chief Features Editor

The peaceful hum of Japanese flutes floated down the steps of Dinand, relaxing me as it brought nature to mind, making me think of a quiet spot beside a brook. Other instruments joined the melody as I approached the Hoval, which was filled with dozens of high school and college students gathered to enjoy the sunny weather and listen to Silkroad Ensemble during their pop-up concert on Friday, September 27. The concert was part of Holy Cross’ 3rd Annual Festival of the Arts, a program that brought over 200 high school students to campus this year to participate in workshops and activities. The Festival of the Arts was organized by Arts Transcending Borders in collaboration with Worcester Public Schools, the Cantor Arts Gallery, and the departments of Music, Theatre & Dance, and Visual Arts. 

Three students from Burncoat High School’s Arts Magnet Program were kind enough to describe their morning activities to me. The three were attending with their Visual Arts class, which had toured the “Buddhist Ritual Art of of Nepal” exhibition in Cantor Art Gallery and participated in a collage workshop. They agreed that their favorite activity had been the “collaborative” experience of making the collage, when all the students had received pieces of paper folded into three sections, and had worked to fit the pieces together.

The other two participating schools were Doherty Memorial and South High Schools. Students from all three schools had spent the morning in workshops ranging from Balinese Dance to Bunraku Puppetry. Every class attended three sessions, in addition to lunch and the concert. Workshops were led by members of Silkroad Ensemble and Holy Cross faculty. 

On the stage, Silkroad Ensemble continued to play music that sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard. The Ensemble is known for blending musical traditions from various cultures into what their website calls “a new musical language that weaves together the foreign and the familiar.” Sure enough, the band’s unexpected combination of percussion instruments, the Celtic harp, bass, Taiko drums, and Japanese flutes resulted in a beautiful, mesmerizing performance.

Dancer Preeti Vasudevan joined the musicians for several songs. Her movements were accompanied by the jingle of small, delicate bells wrapped around her ankles, which perfectly expressed the interdisciplinary nature of the arts celebration as her dance not only accompanied but added to the music. 

For the grand finale, Vasudevan welcomed high school choir members onto the stage and bare-footed dancers into the marked-off area before the stage. She announced that the Ensemble would be playing a Scottish folk song called “Hey Donald” and encouraged the audience to join in for the chorus. 

Though the concert marked the close of the Festival, the arts immersion efforts didn’t end there. As part of Holy Cross’ partnership with Silkroad Ensemble, several Silkroad artists and Holy Cross students visited Burncoat to lead follow-up sessions on Monday, September 30, further building connections between the two schools. 

The Festival served as a powerful reminder not only of the arts-related opportunities present at Holy Cross, but of the reasons such opportunities matter. They have a great capacity to enrichen the experiences of individuals and to unite communities. At the very least, they become a good story to regale your friends with – “You’ll never believe the weird music I heard at lunch.” 

Silkroad Ensemble is truly an unforgettable experience no Holy Cross student should miss. I would highly encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to Silkroad Ensemble to attend the world premiere of “Falling Out of Time,” a song cycle by Osvaldo Golijov. The performance, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. on October 31 in Brooks Concert Hall, will be followed by a national tour. Student tickets cost $5, staff and faculty tickets cost $10, and can be purchased online. Call (508) 793-3835 for more information. 

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